President & CEO Tom Hirons on Branding and Positioning

In part one of Hirons’ new four-part Executive Leadership Podcast Series, agency president and CEO Tom Hirons discusses the role of branding and positioning in developing successful campaigns in the digital age. The series, which will give listeners unparalleled access into the minds of some of Hirons’ most experienced leaders, focuses on developing a clear and diverse snapshot of the communications industry and the ways in which Hirons services clients in a variety of fields.

In this first episode, Tom Hirons discusses a number of topics, including the mentors who shaped his interest in the industry, the story of how he started Hirons in the first place and the lessons he has learned along the way. Listeners can stream the episode here on the Hirons website, or download and listen via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or TuneIn. Episodes will roll out every two weeks, continuing next with COO Jim Parham’s insights into the world of crisis communications.

Executive Leadership: Tom Hirons

CEO Tom Hirons sat down with us to discuss his unique experience in the advertising world after 39 years in the business. A creative at heart, Tom recounts the path he took from starting the company to where he is today and the challenges he has overcome to achieve success in a fast-paced industry.

Where did you go to school, and what first drew you into the world of advertising and marketing?

I went to Indiana University in Bloomington. I long had interest in advertising and actually paid for part of my college as a freelance designer, concert promoter and political campaign manager. Luckily an extraordinary mentor, Phillip Ward Burton, convinced me I should get better clients than rock stars and politicians. He opened my eyes to the opportunities in communications and what I could learn.

What is something that makes your day-to-day work life unique from others at Hirons?

Ideally, my day is not unique from others. I strive to do the same jobs everyone else is doing. I want staff to perform at the highest level and think strategically, which is why we do our best to work together and keep it uniform. I do, however, have responsibility for more unique tasks such as serving as the senior branding consultant in the agency, gathering talent and assembling high-performing teams. I also have the ultimate responsibility for accountability to our clients for our quality of work.

In the beginning of your career, whom did you look to as a mentor? How has that changed as your career has grown?

In college, Phil Burton was my most important mentor. He helped me realize my potential in communications. Another influencer was my entrepreneurial mentor, Steve Huse, founder of Noble Roman’s and current proprietor of St. Elmo’s. Jerry Neely and Lee Marchant were also extraordinary mentors, grooming me to be chairman of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce at a really young age. As my background was not in business, they taught me how to use boards of directors and gave me in-depth training on budgeting and financial analysis.

The biggest challenge to starting as CEO is you don’t have co-workers or a boss who is constantly thinking about your professional growth and development. It is essential to find a way to identify the experiences you need, correct the shortcomings you have, and build a set of professional experiences to help you grow in your profession.

As my career has grown, it became clear I needed a challenge, motivating me to open an office in China. This allowed me to work with three Fortune 500 companies as well as work in another culture, opening up a mid-career professional growth opportunity that I could not have found anywhere else. I continue to do that with clients and peers. Today, I look to our COO, Jim Parham, and David Geis, state director of the Indiana Bankers Association, for guidance.

What would you describe as your “time capsule” accomplishment? If you could only take one project or victory with you from your career, what would it be and why?

My most meaningful accomplishment is building a successful agency and operating offices in Beijing. I am very proud to say that we were the first international company to register a woman as our CEO. It was incredible to see her break that barrier and create opportunities that would lead to an extraordinary career.

How has the industry changed over the course of your career, and how have you adapted?

The most visible change is technology. Our initial technology purchase was an IBM Selectric II, a typewriter with a small memory card. Before technology we would buy marker pens by the case to do hand-drawn design renderings and camera-ready art. Technology has driven change. Early on it changed how we did our work, and now it is changing the work and services we provide. Not being a digital native, I have had a learning curve, but surrounding myself with talented digital workers has helped me learn tremendously.

Of all of the agencies in the industry, what makes Hirons different?

Our brand. In reality, there are a number of great firms and talented people in communications. We are different by our integration and digital leadership, and by being research-based, results-focused and employee-owned. Philip Kotler, among the senior faculty at the Northwestern School of Management, is quoted saying, “If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.” This rings true, which is why we have built our brand on a set of values that distinguishes us from other shops. Our values are to outthink, outwork and outperform with a core essence of being bold. Our reputation has continued to be our greatest strength for 39 years.

Intern Spotlight: Summer 2017

Our summer interns have arrived! Hirons is excited to welcome Daniel Morgan, Elaine Evans, Preston Radtke,  Katrina Ent, Christy Herzog and Andrew Gretencord. Get to know them in this intern spotlight.

Name: Daniel Morgan
Internship title: Digital Assistant

What college did you attend and what was your major?

I attended Indiana University in Bloomington and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I was interested in gaining agency experience and expanding my skill set beyond writing and editing.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I’m hoping to expand my understanding of digital marketing, specifically using analytics platforms and audience targeting.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

I have extensive experience working as a newspaper reporter and writing content for the communications office at IU. I also played a central role in a student-led effort to bring a TEDx conference to Indiana University for the first time.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

I’ve lived in Indianapolis almost my entire life, so I have a thorough understanding of what the city has to offer.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

It’s a dynamic environment. There’s something different to work on each day, and I’m enjoying the variety of projects as well as the lively collaborative atmosphere.

Fun facts about yourself:

I once bowled a perfect game in Wii bowling, and I love hiking. I hope to one day hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Name: Elaine Evans
Internship title:
Design Intern

What college do you attend and what is your major?

I currently attend Herron School of Art & Design at IUPUI. I am majoring in visual communication design and will graduate May 2018.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I reached out to John Molloy for a job shadowing experience and to get his expertise on my portfolio. He met with me for several hours and offered me an internship.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I want to gain practical experience and knowledge in my field. I also want to meet professional designers and directors, see what their lives are like and what their experiences are in the industry. Networking and a future position at Hirons are also what I’m striving to achieve.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

I have worked as an in-house designer for a local non-profit called Good News Ministries, where I learned how important personal brands are to a company. I was able to help them transition from their previous brand to an updated one by creating their new brand manual. I also interviewed clients and wrote stories for their newsletters and social media.

Additionally, I worked at the Basile Center at IUPUI, where I was able to design work for Herron, IUPUI and other offices within the university. I worked beneath strict brand guidelines and learned to be creative in executions of design so that they were unique. This position allowed me to explore techniques that are not normally accessible to designers. For example, I learned to operate the laser cutter, an 18th century letterpress and silk screen. Each of these techniques were used for different projects and taught me to think outside of the typical realms of print design.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

I grew up in a biracial family; my mother was born and raised in Taiwan, and my father is from Danville, Indiana. I have been fortunate to visit my family in Taiwan and study abroad in Japan. I am inspired and pull from different cultures whenever I am designing. I’ve learned that there are always two sides (or more) to a story, an opinion or a statement. I enjoy studying how people think and how that influences their decisions.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

Everybody is so cool! There’s so much personality at Hirons, and I love it. I love that there are dogs here and that there aren’t social walls built up based on position. I was impressed that the people who work here are very dedicated to their work. This is exactly the atmosphere that I want to be in because everyone is working toward the same goal of doing great work. I am inspired by the positivity, the optimism, the transparency and the energy. It really does feel like a team when working on projects and it’s a team I want to be on.

Fun facts about yourself:

  • I spent my first year of college pursuing a piano performance degree at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and I still teach piano in Avon.
  • I like to rock climb, ride motorcycles and travel.
  • I never wanted a dog so much until I started working at Hirons.

Name: Preston Radtke
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant

What college do you attend and what is your major?

I attend Ball State University for emerging media design and development. I’m in graduate school.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I wanted to gain more invaluable industry experience. I have never worked for an agency before, and Hirons seemed like it met all of my needs.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I hope to grow my overall portfolio of accomplishments and experiences while making impactful connections along the way.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

I have experience in journalism, health care PR, adaptive technology, podcasting and creative writing.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

I have been out of the country at least five times in my life, so I have a greater perspective on things. My disability has also allowed me to look at things from different perspectives.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

Hirons’ staff is very relaxed and approachable while being productive.

Fun facts about yourself:

I’m apparently a Freemason (non-practicing), I’m working on a book, I collect hats and my favorite band is Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia”).

Name: Katrina Ent
Internship title: Amos Brown Intern

What college did you attend and what was your major?

I attended Ball State University. My major was public relations and my minor was entrepreneurial management.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I chose Hirons for an internship because I wanted to gain experience with a well-established public relations/marketing agency. During my junior year at Ball State, the PRSSA chapter scheduled a “Half Day with a Pro” at Hirons. I fell in love with the office culture, and I will never forget the piece of advice Tom gave me and my peers, “If you couldn’t run your own agency, I won’t hire you.” That is the day I decided to minor in entrepreneurial management.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I hope to accomplish many things during my time with Hirons, but my biggest goals are as follows:

  • Successfully pitch to the media
  • Receive media training and (hopefully) conduct media training for other professionals
  • Learn how to handle crisis communications
  • Improve my writing skills (press releases, media advisories, blogs, newsletters, pitches, social media, etc.)
  • Learn more about media buying and how the process works

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

After graduating from Ball State, I think I have many skills to bring to the table. I am social media-savvy and can get really creative when posting through social media. I have organized a social media campaign through a student-run creative agency as well as through my past internship with Hendricks County Community Foundation. I also have experience with media relations. Being the public relations intern for the 500 Festival taught me how to prepare 500 Festival princesses for interviews as well as develop working relationships with news reporters. During my time with the 500 Festival, I also had the opportunity to write the script for the parade, which is the fourth largest parade in the world. My strongest skills include media relations, creative writing and social media.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

My philosophy is to always be positive (even during the worst times) and to always be kind to one another. I have grown up watching Ellen DeGeneres, and the tag line “be kind to one another” was a line Ellen would always say at the end of her shows. Since watching her show, I have lived by that quote every day. I have also learned to joke every now and then. It’s important to know when you need to be professional or serious, but laughter is the best kind of medicine for everyone. This is an anonymous quote I found on Pinterest: “Laughing is, and will always be, the best form of therapy.” I have learned to live life by being kind to everyone, by being positive, and by not taking life so seriously all the time.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

My first impression of Hirons was that the staff is incredibly talented at what they do. The environment at Hirons is very fast-paced, which was why I decided to apply to Hirons in the first place. I knew that Hirons was a very well-established public relations/marketing agency. I also knew that I wanted to be part of a team that knows they are the best and that could provide me with opportunities I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Fun facts about yourself:

  • I am the oldest sibling and the oldest cousin on my dad’s side of the family.
  • I am a huge foodie! I love eating at new restaurants, especially local.
  • I was featured in a nationwide TV commercial during my undergrad at Ball State University.

Name: Christy Herzog
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant

What college did you attend and what was your major?

I recently graduated from Bradley University. While I was there, I studied advertising and social media marketing.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I chose Hirons for an internship because I love the mission behind Hirons. I love the idea of being bold and not being afraid to be different and unique. What sets you apart from others is what makes you succeed. Not to mention, I also loved the fact that Hirons is in my hometown!

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I hope to gain knowledge about the account management field. I want to be able to be an active member in all aspects of a client’s account and help to better their business. It’s a part of advertising that I have wanted to have a role in since I chose advertising as my major.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

I was previously an intern at Kelly and Company Advertising Agency in Peoria, Ill. as the social media specialist. During my time there, I was in charge of posting to multiple clients’ various social media pages and tracking the results. During my collegiate career, I was also a media intern for the Chicago Auto Show. I was in charge of posting to the auto show’s multiple social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, as well as creating press releases.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

I am extremely personable and pay great attention to detail. I am goal-driven and set my sights on the big picture with small milestones along the way. I am also very flexible and don’t mind getting things thrown at me.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

I love the atmosphere at Hirons. Everyone works together as a team to create something that the client and Hirons will be proud of. I also love the trust that everyone has in each other. The community here is so tight-knit, and I think that is something that is important in this industry. My overall first impression of Hirons, “I’m going to like this place!”

Fun facts about yourself:

I went to a university that was smaller than my high school, I could binge watch an entire season of The Office in one sitting, and I love to cook more than anything.

Name: Andrew Gretencord
Internship title: Business Development Intern

What college do you attend and what is your major?

I am an incoming senior at Indiana University, majoring in advertising through The Media School.

Why did you choose to intern at Hirons?

I chose Hirons because of its outstanding reputation, testaments from previous interns, and after meeting some of the staff working here. Last year I attended a presentation led by Tom Hirons through my fraternity, and I quickly realized how it could be beneficial to work with Tom and learn from his immense knowledge of the advertising agency.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I hope to understand both the internal and external sides of advertising. It is essential for me to understand the work that goes behind each project as well as the implementation strategies used to ensure the project is successful.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

During my time at IU, I have served as the marketing specialist and marketing director for two separate student government elections. I learned valuable time management skills, ran several social media accounts, and delegated tasks to team members. I also have served as a brand ambassador for companies such as Mattel and Delta Airlines, representing their brands through grassroots marketing.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

Throughout my life, I have always been comfortable working with new people and have developed several exceptional business relationships along the way. I consider myself a very personable and cooperative person, traits that translate well in the advertising business.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

My first impression of Hirons was how welcoming and dedicated staff members are at training younger people within the agency. They have a focused intent to pass on their experience and knowledge and to ensure I am prepared for bigger roles in the future. In the short month I have been here, they have allowed me to work in the business development, crisis communications, social media and public relations departments, which has opened my eyes to the possible fields I may want to focus on in the future.

Fun facts about yourself:

I am an avid movie-goer and, one day, I want to work in the movie industry.


U.S. and Venezuela: Two countries, two independence celebrations

By Ana Kotchkoski, Account Manager 


On the 4th of July, the United States celebrates its Independence Day, a national holiday full of joy, light and color. Citizens in general revel in the holiday, dressing in the colors of the flag and hosting a range of celebrations, walks, barbecues, outdoor concerts, festivals, fairs and colorful parades, all marked by a traditional fireworks display.

While many major cities across the nation are caught up in the holiday, it remains a festive celebration without any touch of militarism or demonstrations of military power. Gatherings are composed of ordinary families and friends. While films have been created to evoke a patriotic sense of this significant date, most observations take the form of a simple but meaningful celebration of freedom.

The following day, on July 5th, Venezuela commemorates its Independence Day. Historically this celebration has been framed by a military parade in Caracas, the capital of the country. This is not a modest display – the four military components, or branches, of the military forces participate in a televised parade in which they show off all their military technology and warfare materiel.

The military parade is carried out on the Paseo de Los Próceres in Caracas. It is announced by the media and broadcast live so every Venezuelan can watch it on TV in real time. Although it has never been as colorful as the American Independence Day celebrations, with the fireworks and all, it is considered a national celebration focused on relaxation, with many retailers taking the day off.

In the past, the parade was beautiful both for the people and the invited diplomatic corps who joined the president and ministers to pay homage to Liberator Simon Bolivar. But during the last 18 years of the Chavez presidency, paramilitary commando groups have been added to the parade. These irregular, ill-trained armed civilians are given national importance.

Today, Venezuela is facing a dangerous scenario. Its people are immersed in poverty, with severe shortages of basic food products, medicines and staples in general. Crime now fills the streets and countryside of this country, renowned for its rich natural and mineral resources and striking geographic features. Many hospital services are suspended or undersupplied, and entire families are leaving the country in search of better life options abroad.

This year’s Independence celebration will feature another group: mostly college students, but also people of all ages, including the elderly. These protesters are risking their lives to demand food, better living conditions and even the resignation of the current president.

Fears are that the warfare arsenal, once so proudly shown in the traditional Independence Parade, will be used against these innocent and unarmed people. They are being used now to attack the people. And while it is a struggle to live in freedom, these people can’t stand by as a country with vast underground oil resources has a population dramatically poor and adrift. This year’s event might not be a celebration, but certainly it will be one that recalls the long-held hope for liberty and independence.

Two countries in the same hemisphere will celebrate their independence days so differently … one with its bright, joyful festivities, the other with tears of pain for the fallen, hunger, injustice and the red color of so much blood shed by fallen youth and so many others who continue to risk their lives clamoring for the right to return to the past of abundance and national pride, without ruthless governmental control.

Venezuelans were once considered among the luckiest of people living in a country full of great opportunities that was open to all immigrants ready to work hard and build a great future for their families.

Now the United States of America, as well as many other countries around the world, represent that future hope for so many desperate Venezuelans looking for a place to settle and live freely.


Employee Highlight: Mike Murtaugh

How did you get interested in advertising/PR and how did you break into the industry and land your first job?

The path I took to wind up in advertising and public relations was unplanned. All through college, I was confident I would follow my passion for sports writing into the job market. Surprisingly, I switched potential career paths at the last possible second towards the agency side. My degree from Butler University was in marketing, and I pivoted toward the business development and PR side once I started working in an agency.

After graduation, I landed my first job with another agency in Indianapolis. A friend of mine from college had started working there and had done well for himself, so when an in-house position became available, I applied as a way to get my foot in the door. Long story short, I sort of fell into the industry, but have been in it ever since.

What are the specializations/most important tools of the trade?

To be successful in an agency, you need to pay attention to detail and possess a willingness to do what you’re asked, when you’re asked to do it. It shows others that you are passionate about the work you do, that you care about it and also that you care about the final product. Working long hours or working on a challenging project will help you prove, to yourself and others, what you’re capable of accomplishing.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in the advertising industry?

In the advertising (and public relations) industry, you need to be confident and flexible. It is important to be self-assured and know you are in the industry for a reason. Know you can handle whatever you encounter and be able to go with the flow when people present you with challenging assignments.

Do you have any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?

My passion is sports – playing them, watching them. It’s a big part of my life. Aside from sports, I enjoy spending my time with friends, watching movies and listening to music.

When and where do you have your best ideas?

There is not one consistent place where I come up with my best ideas. I will sometimes stew over something for a little while and formulate a strategy before I dive into it. Sometimes an idea will come to me in the middle of the night, and I will get up to jot it down. You never really know when an idea is going to hit you.

What has been the most exciting project/campaign that you’ve worked on at Hirons?

On the account side, I’m most proud of being able to take the first stab at writing copy for the Eskenazi Health website. It was cool to see our team launch the website, in full, during fall of 2016. In terms of business development, I’m most proud of reaching our goal of continuing to grow our federal initiative. Although it took almost a full year in my current position, we finally landed an exciting new federal client, which is a U.S. military initiative.

Why is effective advertising/PR so important for growth and success of organizations?

Advertising is a growing, competitive field. Since companies can now promote their products on various social media platforms, the push to be smart, creative and strategic has never been greater. If you’re not all of the above, you will fall by the wayside.

On the public relations front, a company’s reputation is built entirely on a narrative – what people are saying about you and the context of the conversation. PR complements paid advertising, in that it’s a way for companies to utilize a separate promotional vehicle to spread the word about their company – what it does and why you should be doing business with them.

What’s one important tip you would share with anyone looking to go into the agency world?

My tip to others would be to soak in as much knowledge as possible from the people around you, especially those new to the agency world. In most agencies, especially one our size, you will find a lot of people who have a lot of experience. Make yourself a sponge and soak in as much as you can, as quickly as you can.

What is the most meaningful part of your job?

The most meaningful part of my job is getting the win. Although the process may sometimes be grueling, and there may be a lot of hoops to jump through, checkpoints to achieve and challenges to bypass, none of it matters in the end when you get the win.

Learning by Doing

By Andrew Gretencord, Business Development Intern 

It’s easy to worry about your first internship. As I walked through the door on my first day at Hirons, thoughts cycled through my mind in ever-accelerating circles. Will I add value to the agency? Am I suited for this position? Will I enjoy my work and maybe even exceed expectations?

As I walked to my desk, I could tell from my surroundings that the work environment was right. It was clear that I was going to have to work extremely hard to match the intensity and drive of the individuals at Hirons. This aspect was exciting and challenging because this would be my first job in a professional setting.

Since I was hired as a business development intern, I assumed all of my energy would focus on that area. To my pleasant surprise, Hirons gives me the freedom to gain valuable experience in all departments of the company. A month ago I never would have expected to be working on press releases, crisis situations, social media and business development. But getting hands-on experience in a range of agency services shows me how complex and diverse an integrated communications agency is.

I have always been a hands-on learner, a testament that likely rings true for most people. Last week, I assisted in the development of podcasts on diverse topics such as crisis communication, media buying and public affairs. Not only was I able to assist in preparations for the podcasts, but I was also invited to watch the recordings. Listening to business professionals who have worked in their fields longer than I have been alive was a humbling experience. But rather than being intimidating, it was motivating.

I have come to realize that Hirons is successful because it encourages its staff to become well-rounded, to work on both internal and external affairs. It is an amazing experience being able to work with talented individuals who all have unique skill sets.

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” By filling me with experiences, Hirons has provided me with real-world knowledge and skills. I’ve worked on the front end and back end of many different projects, with many points in between. And I’ve only been here a month.

Executive Leadership: Ann Kneifel

Whether it’s crunching numbers or traveling out west, passion drives her actions. For 15 years, Ann Kneifel, chief financial officer, has overseen the balance sheets at Hirons, ensuring that bills and salaries are paid. We sat down with Ann to learn more about her career.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school at Miami of Ohio, where I studied interior design and business management. When you’re that young, you don’t know where your career is going to go. It’s neat to look back at where you started and where your path has taken you.
What was your first job in the industry, and how did your path lead you to Hirons?

After graduating, I started at Sears in the accounting department. (You should have seen the huge computer rooms.) After that, I was the business manager for a dental office. I’ve spent my entire career in accounting, but in different industries. That’s what I love about accounting – all types of businesses need accountants, which has given me the opportunity to serve a variety of organizations.

I joined Hirons when we were in Bloomington, and it’s been a great place for this chapter of my career. Although I am in an accounting role, I love being in a creative environment and seeing new people come in after college because they have fresh ideas. We also have people who have been with the company for many years. It’s a nice mix.

What is something that makes your day-to-day life unique?

Accounting tends to be a very routine job but, because I work at an advertising agency, I never know what is going to happen. I walk in the door and I just never know. Some days that means reading scripts or recording clients’ radio spots. Peyton Manning, the mayor and the governor have been in here over the years. Every day is exciting!

What would you describe as your “time capsule” accomplishment? If you could take only one project, accomplishment or victory with you from your career, what would that be and why?

My proudest accomplishment was earning my Executive MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Going back to school when I was 58 was very challenging. Most of the other students were in their early 40s. I had not been a student since I was 18 years old and I was working full time, so it was intimidating. I didn’t think I could do it. But it’s so important to continue to learn throughout your whole life. My father instilled a passion for learning in me.

What advice would you give to a young professional?

Work hard. Be persistent. You’re going to have great successes and great failures. Work through all of those days with a smile on your face. You can hardly go wrong with a good attitude. Take responsibility for your actions. You’re going to make mistakes, but ride through it.

Whether it’s for work or leisure, read everything. I am a voracious reader. One of my recent favorite books is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a very well-written book. One of my all-time favorites is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Of all of the agencies in the industry, what makes Hirons different?

There is a purpose behind everything we do at Hirons. We always strive do the right thing. Tom Hirons goes out of his way to help mentor young professionals. That creates a high-energy environment of hard workers.

Executive Leadership: Rose Durbin

As a witness to the evolution in the media and digital worlds, Rose Durbin paved her way as a problem solver. Throughout her exhilarating and varied media career, she has reveled in the challenges posed by emerging media, from cable television to social media and evolving developments in digital data measurement.

We sat down with our media director to talk about her career path and evolution.

Where did you go to school, and what first drew you into the world of advertising and marketing?

I attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, working in the university’s business office all four years while studying toward a degree in English. During my time there, I learned how important communications and PR were to an organization.

I took my first computer class in 1972 and realized the potential of the medium. With new, innovative technological tools at my fingertips, I knew I had the opportunity to be part of something big!CPC_8197

What was your first job in the industry, and how did your path lead you to Hirons?

I began my career at an advertising agency, in accounting, then transitioned to media, where I found my niche. I moved around to other agencies in neighboring cities. I first worked for Hirons from 2004-2007 and came back in 2013. (We hope for good!)

What is something that makes your day-to-day unique from others at Hirons?

While many of the challenges I confront as media director are technical in nature, I relish brainstorming with the media team to find innovative communications solutions for clients. In an industry that is constantly changing and evolving, it’s key to stay at the forefront of new developments and research.

How has the industry changed over the course of your career, and how have you adapted?

Everything is much more complex. Instead of relying so heavily on just Nielsen for TV and radio, we utilize comScore just as much for any type of digital advertising or placement. With the precision of the analytics that we use on a day-to-day basis, those numbers alone can tell the story for you now.

I appreciate the challenges that come with a fast-paced media environment. Our digital team does a fantastic job of reading consumers and knowing how to communicate with them. They think outside the box. That’s really important to Hirons in general. We really do focus on using the most innovative technologies and ideas to serve our clients in the best way possible.

What would you describe as your “time capsule” accomplishment? If you could only take one project, accomplishment or victory with you from your career, what would that be and why?

I am most proud of executing the integration of cable into broadcast media for clients. In a time where clients were using cable for the first time, I saw it as an opportunity to introduce them to a new era of advertising, one where they can measure success individually. I miss the intimacy of those client relationships from the days before digital skyrocketed. Taking the time to develop those relationships is so important to building a strong foundation for all future work.

Of all of the agencies in the industry, what makes Hirons different?

Hirons is constantly growing and learning, which is something that many of our clients appreciate and admire. For me, it’s refreshing knowing we are always a step ahead and are always improving.

Why Culture Shock Is So Important

By Megan Auger, Communication Management Intern 

Culture shock is defined as “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life or set of attitudes.”

Sometimes this phrase has a negative connotation, but for many of us, experiencing culture shock is what makes us well-rounded and diverse individuals. Whether it’s traveling domestically or internationally, experiencing different lifestyles allows us to begin to understand others’ backgrounds and ways of life. In today’s social landscape, a broader understanding of  others’ differences and beliefs helps us to better communicate and engage.

Let’s say you live in New York City. Taking a trip to Tulsa, Okla., or Columbus, Ohio, would be a major change from the hustle and bustle of the city life you know. The pace of life definitely would be slower, and you might find other differences in social interactions, political beliefs and lifestyle values. However, you are sure to find some similarities, too, which are equally surprising!

Sometimes, the smallest differences can make the biggest impacts on us (like accents or work ethics). These discoveries help us learn about and understand how others live and feel. They also give us a measure to examine our own attitudes and values.

As important as it is to note cultural differences here within the United States, culture shock occurs more often in international travels. Hirons’ very own Hannah Riffle, Communications Management intern, studied abroad in Ireland on a trip that granted her life-changing experiences that she believes changed her view of the world.

“This opened my eyes to the possibilities and diverse ways of thinking. Before the trip, I thought of the world from a national lens. Now, I think from more of a global lens,” she explained.

By traveling to Ireland, Hannah was able to learn about the social norms, religion and lifestyles of the Irish, which broadened her perspective and worldview. “Being abroad made me thirsty to learn more about other cultures and how we interact with each other because we all bring something unique to the table,” she said.

After experiencing such new and unique ways of life, we tend to see things more objectively and accept others for who they are. Even though it may come as a “shock,” it’s a positive one that we can take back with us and use in our everyday lives.

Employee Highlight: Nick Reese

A graphic designer, problem solver and translator are all roles played by Nick Reese, Hirons’ newest creative assistant. His job is to interpret and visually convey an idea, message, brand or product in the most effective way possible. From complex campaign concepts down to simple fact sheets, Nick helps create a wide range of digital and physical visuals for clients. We interviewed the most recent member of the Hirons family to delve deeper into his creative mind and uncover more about his passion for art – at the office and outside of work.


How did you become interested in advertising/PR, and how did you break into the industry and land your first job?

I initially graduated from Park Tudor here in Indianapolis. I went on to attend High Point University in North Carolina, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in graphic design and digital communications with a minor in photography. In school, ads were my favorite projects. I love the overarching structure filled with intricacies that branding provides. I also love the emotion an ad can stir within a person. An image, combined with a well-crafted message and intricate thought process, is all you need to make someone grin from ear to ear or cause their stomach to drop. That’s beautiful to me.

I landed my job here at Hirons thanks to someone from RePro Graphix who passed along several names of agencies in the area. I ended up interviewing with Tom and the creative team. Shortly after, I became part of the Hirons family.


What are specializations/most important tools of the trade?

Creative is a bridge – and not just between two people. The work you present needs to speak to the client. You have to structure all of the input you receive into a path for the client to follow or a direction for them to go. For them, an adjective becomes something that performs. The client or account manager will use certain terms in an attempt to convey their vision to you. It is important to dissect those words and fully understand what the client is trying to achieve so you can help them reach the goals they have set for the project as well as identify potential flaws and suggest revisions.


As a graphic designer, what characteristics do you need to be successful in the advertising industry?

In this industry, it is important to understand that while your art may look good, it may not perform well. Thus, you need to have thick skin in order to handle criticism. The ability to remove yourself from a situation or project and seek out another point of view is crucial, so it is also important to have humility.


Do you have any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?

I collect sneakers – any type of shoe really. Right now, I have around 200 pairs. I’ve been obsessed with them forever. I have notebooks from the third grade that are filled with shoe drawings. Looking back, my obsession with shoes started with a basic understanding of design in terms of form and function. The marriage between the two is the basis of design – something that is both eye-catching and serves a purpose.


When and where do you have your best ideas?

Honestly, I have no specific time or place. Sometimes I’m in my car, and an idea hits me out of nowhere. Other times, I’m hunkered down at my desk, and they come to me as expected.


What has been the most exciting project/campaign that you’ve worked on at Hirons?

My first pitch was a whirlwind. I had only been with Hirons for a few months, so I was still new to advertising as a whole. Seeing the details and nuances in prepping and pitching and watching it all unfold made me feel like I was watching a choreographed dance by the end. I learned a ton working under Pam and John, and it was amazing to see Tom present. He had everyone on the edge of their seats.


Why is effective advertising/PR so important for growth and success of organizations?

I am a firm believer that all problems stem from miscommunication, and I see myself as a translator. In the world of advertising, we have to take the time to study human behavior and learn what works and what does not. We also have the difficult task of capturing a client’s vision and making sure it is well-received by the masses in the most effective way possible. If a problem doing so arises, I keep peeling back layers until I eventually find a communication disconnect.


What’s one important tip you would share with anyone looking to go into the agency world?

The “9-to-5” concept does not apply to the agency world. Here, the work gets done when it gets done. It’s a fast-paced environment, and there is no hand-holding.


What is the most meaningful part of your job?

Right now, it’s learning. I’m trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible so I can eventually slay this world of creative direction and feel proud of the impact I am making. Luckily, I have great co-workers who have years of experience from which I can learn.